VANCOUVER – Against one of the NBA’s most dominant teams, the Dallas Mavericks brought their own brand of dominance to the table Thursday night.
Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis each posted a double-double and the Mavs put a tight defense on the Los Angeles Clippers en route to a thorough 102-87 triumph before a sellout crowd of 17,204 at Rogers Arena.
It was the second consecutive powerful performance by the Mavs — coming off the heels of Monday’s 107-70 runaway victory over Oklahoma City. And with Porzingis and Doncic leading the charge, the Mavs looked more than prepared to play their regular season opener on Wednesday at home against the Washington Wizards.
“I loved their aggression, I loved the way they’re playing with each other, the team moved the ball and found them, and we were making good plays,” coach Rick Carlisle said in reference to Doncic and Porzingis. “So, some very good positives.
“But we’re not going to get over-enamored with this win in an exhibition game. We’ve got to get back home, (have a) great practice Saturday and go from there and get ready for Washington.”
Thursday’s game also marked the end of an era for the Mavs. Sarah Melton, the Mavs’ vice-president of basketball communications who has been with the franchise more than 20 years, worked her final game for the Mavs after announcing her retirement last week. After the game, Carlisle presented Melton with the game ball in the locker room and the entire team gathered around Melton for a photo.
In the meantime, before getting ready for Washington, the Mavs first manhandled the Clippers in the NBA Canada Series, looking very much like they are a serious contender to advance to the playoffs this season for the first time since 2016. Porzingis was one of the Mavs’ main weapons as he overcame four first-half fouls and wound up collecting 18 points and 13 rebounds, shooting a robust 6-of-9 from the field.
Of his best shooting game of the preseason, Porzingis said: “I just kind of started slower on offense. I wanted to get in rhythm doing some other things on the floor out there, and it worked well for me. I didn’t force anything.
“I think it’s another step forward for me just in getting back in rhythm and playing in rhythm. And I’m happy with this game even though I didn’t really do that much on the offensive end. Just open shots and cuts to the basket and easy stuff, and that’s how I’ve got to play.”
Doncic was 4-of-9 from 3-point land and finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds, and also had a brief shouting match with Terance Mann in the third quarter, which led to a double technical foul.
“I think we did a good job, especially on defense,” Doncic said. “They got (87) points, so for us everything started with defense and I think we did a great job today.
“We stopped their attack. We were just playing great defense.”
The Mavs, who finished preseason with a 2-3 record, were so in-tuned with each other on defense that over half of the first quarter was in the books before the Clippers made their initial field goal. By then, the Mavs had already rumbled to a 13-1 lead – the Clippers were 0-of-12 from the floor at that juncture – and that lead eventually mushroomed to 24-9 after Porzingis blocked a shot at one end of the court and completed an and-1 at the other end.
“I think we were doing some good things, but I also think they were missing some shots they normally make,” Carlisle said. “Again, I’m not going to get into a big thing about how great it is to win this game.
“We got through this, we need to move on to Saturday and then our preparation for Wednesday.”
The Mavs played without Dwight Powell (left hamstring strain), Seth Curry (right knee contusion), Dorian Finney-Smith (left hip flexor strain) and Ryan Broekhoff (right ankle sprain), while the main Clipper players who didn’t play included Paul George (shoulder rehab), Patrick Beverley (rest) and Lou Williams (rest).
The Mavs quickly took control of this game, led wire-to-wire and appeared undaunted all game long.
“I think we were just trying to go out there and just play 48 minutes no matter what the opponent, no matter what the situation is, no matter where we are,” said guard Jalen Brunson, who had six points and a game-high seven assists. “It was a game we’re playing as hard as we can, and we were able to put it together tonight.”
By halftime, when the Mavs led 55-35, Porzingis had already manufactured 12 points and 11 rebounds and was a load for the Clippers to try and contain.
“Every game is different,” Porzingis said. “Just step by step. Another step forward for me.”
It also was another step forward for Justin Jackson, who racked up 18 points and six rebounds in just 24 minutes.
“I thought he did some good things,” Carlisle said. “We played him a little differently tonight in the rotation. He got to finish the game with the third group.
“He’s a guy that always adds some stability because he knows the game and is very even keel from a personality standpoint out on the floor, which I think is a very good thing for a young group like the one that finished the game.”
In addition to Jackson, Tim Hardaway Jr. came off the bench and turned in a solid performance as he converted 3-of-8 shots from beyond the 3-point arc and finished with 15 points. Meanwhile, the Mavs won the rebounding battle (58-39) and also held Kawhi Leonard to just 13 points on 5-of-19 shooting.
However, the Mavs walked away trying to somewhat low-key how they took apart the Clippers, who shot only 36.6 percent from the field.
“It’s just preseason,” Doncic said. “Now we’re ready to go. We’re going to keep blending our chemistry, but I think we did a great job of doing this. Especially the last two games.”